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´╗┐Title: Project Hush
Author: Klass, Philip
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Project Hush" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                             PROJECT HUSH

                            By WILLIAM TENN

                      Illustrated by DICK FRANCIS

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction
February 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the
U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


[Sidenote: The biggest job in history and it had to be done with
complete secrecy. It was--which was just the trouble!]


I guess I'm just a stickler, a perfectionist, but if you do a thing, I
always say, you might as well do it right. Everything satisfied me about
the security measures on our assignment except one--the official Army
designation.

Project Hush.

I don't know who thought it up, and I certainly would never ask, but
whoever it was, he should have known better. Damn it, when you want a
project kept secret, you _don't_ give it a designation like that! You
give it something neutral, some name like the Manhattan and Overlord
they used in World War II, which won't excite anybody's curiosity.

But we were stuck with Project Hush and we had to take extra measures to
ensure secrecy. A couple of times a week, everyone on the project had to
report to Psycho for DD & HA--dream detailing and hypnoanalysis--instead
of the usual monthly visit. Naturally, the commanding general of the
heavily fortified research post to which we were attached could not ask
what we were doing, under penalty of court-martial, but he had to be
given further instructions to shut off his imagination like a faucet
every time he heard an explosion. Some idiot in Washington was actually
going to list Project Hush in the military budget by name! It took fast
action, I can tell you, to have it entered under Miscellaneous "X"
Research.

Well, we'd covered the unforgivable blunder, though not easily, and now
we could get down to the real business of the project. You know, of
course, about the A-bomb, H-bomb and C-bomb because information that
they existed had been declassified. You don't know about the other
weapons being devised--and neither did we, reasonably enough, since they
weren't our business--but we had been given properly guarded
notification that they were in the works. Project Hush was set up to
counter the new weapons.

Our goal was not just to reach the Moon. We had done that on 24 June
1967 with an unmanned ship that carried instruments to report back data
on soil, temperature, cosmic rays and so on. Unfortunately, it was put
out of commission by a rock slide.

An unmanned rocket would be useless against the new weapons. We had to
get to the Moon before any other country did and set up a permanent
station--an armed one--and do it without anybody else knowing about it.

I guess you see now why we on (_damn_ the name!) Project Hush were so
concerned about security. But we felt pretty sure, before we took off,
that we had plugged every possible leak.

We had, all right. Nobody even knew we had raised ship.

       *       *       *       *       *

We landed at the northern tip of Mare Nubium, just off Regiomontanus,
and, after planting a flag with appropriate throat-catching ceremony,
had swung into the realities of the tasks we had practiced on so many
dry runs back on Earth. Major Monroe Gridley prepared the big rocket,
with its tiny cubicle of living space, for the return journey to Earth
which he alone would make.

Lieutenant-colonel Thomas Hawthorne painstakingly examined our
provisions and portable quarters for any damage that might have been
incurred in landing.

And I, Colonel Benjamin Rice, first commanding officer of Army Base No.
1 on the Moon, dragged crate after enormous crate out of the ship on my
aching academic back, and piled them in the spot two hundred feet away
where the plastic dome would be built.

We all finished at just about the same time, as per schedule, and went
into Phase Two.

Monroe and I started work on building the dome. It was a simple pre-fab
affair, but big enough to require an awful lot of assembling. Then,
after it was built, we faced the real problem--getting all the complex
internal machinery in place and in operating order.

Meanwhile, Tom Hawthorne took his plump self off in the single-seater
rocket which, up to then, had doubled as a lifeboat.

The schedule called for him to make a rough three-hour scouting survey
in an ever-widening spiral from our dome. This had been regarded as a
probable waste of time, rocket fuel and manpower--but a necessary
precaution. He was supposed to watch for such things as bug-eyed
monsters out for a stroll on the Lunar landscape. Basically, however,
Tom's survey was intended to supply extra geological and astronomical
meat for the report which Monroe was to carry back to Army HQ on Earth.

Tom was back in forty minutes. His round face, inside its transparent
bubble helmet, was fish-belly white. And so were ours, once he told us
what he'd seen.

He had seen another dome.

"The other side of Mare Nubium--in the Riphaen Mountains," he babbled
excitedly. "It's a little bigger than ours, and it's a little flatter on
top. And it's not translucent, either, with splotches of different
colors here and there--it's a dull, dark, heavy gray. But that's all
there is to see."

"No markings on the dome?" I asked worriedly. "No signs of anyone--or
anything--around it?"

"Neither, Colonel." I noticed he was calling me by my rank for the first
time since the trip started, which meant he was saying in effect, "Man,
have you got a decision to make!"

"Hey, Tom," Monroe put in. "Couldn't be just a regularly shaped bump in
the ground, could it?"

"I'm a geologist, Monroe. I can distinguish artificial from natural
topography. Besides--" he looked up--"I just remembered something I left
out. There's a brand-new tiny crater near the dome--the kind usually
left by a rocket exhaust."

"Rocket exhaust?" I seized on that. "_Rockets_, eh?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Tom grinned a little sympathetically. "Spaceship exhaust, I should have
said. You can't tell from the crater what kind of propulsive device
these characters are using. It's not the same kind of crater our
rear-jets leave, if that helps any."

Of course it didn't. So we went into our ship and had a council of war.
And I do mean war. Both Tom and Monroe were calling me Colonel in every
other sentence. I used their first names every chance I got.

Still, no one but me could reach a decision. About what to do, I mean.

"Look," I said at last, "here are the possibilities. They know we are
here--either from watching us land a couple of hours ago or from
observing Tom's scout-ship--or they do not know we are here. They are
either humans from Earth--in which case they are in all probability
enemy nationals--or they are alien creatures from another planet--in
which case they may be friends, enemies or what-have-you. I think common
sense and standard military procedure demand that we consider them
hostile until we have evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile, we proceed
with extreme caution, so as not to precipitate an interplanetary war
with potentially friendly Martians, or whatever they are.

"All right. It's vitally important that Army Headquarters be informed of
this immediately. But since Moon-to-Earth radio is still on the drawing
boards, the only way we can get through is to send Monroe back with the
ship. If we do, we run the risk of having our garrison force, Tom and
me, captured while he's making the return trip. In that case, their side
winds up in possession of important information concerning our personnel
and equipment, while our side has only the bare knowledge that somebody
or something else has a base on the Moon. So our primary need is more
information.

"Therefore, I suggest that I sit in the dome on one end of a telephone
hookup with Tom, who will sit in the ship, his hand over the firing
button, ready to blast off for Earth the moment he gets the order from
me. Monroe will take the single-seater down to the Riphaen Mountains,
landing as close to the other dome as he thinks safe. He will then
proceed the rest of the way on foot, doing the best scouting job he can
in a spacesuit.

"He will not use his radio, except for agreed-upon nonsense syllables to
designate landing the single-seater, coming upon the dome by foot, and
warning me to tell Tom to take off. If he's captured, remembering that
the first purpose of a scout is acquiring and transmitting knowledge of
the enemy, he will snap his suit radio on full volume and pass on as
much data as time and the enemy's reflexes permit. How does that sound
to you?"

They both nodded. As far as they were concerned, the command decision
had been made. But I was sitting under two inches of sweat.

"One question," Tom said. "Why did you pick Monroe for the scout?"

"I was afraid you'd ask that," I told him. "We're three extremely
unathletic Ph.D.s who have been in the Army since we finished our
schooling. There isn't too much choice. But I remembered that Monroe is
half Indian--Arapahoe, isn't it, Monroe?--and I'm hoping blood will
tell."

"Only trouble, Colonel," Monroe said slowly as he rose, "is that I'm
one-_fourth_ Indian and even that.... Didn't I ever tell you that my
great-grandfather was the only Arapahoe scout who was with Custer at the
Little Big Horn? He'd been positive Sitting Bull was miles away.
However, I'll do my best. And if I heroically don't come back, would you
please persuade the Security Officer of our section to clear my name for
use in the history books? Under the circumstances, I think it's the
least he could do."

I promised to do my best, of course.

       *       *       *       *       *

After he took off, I sat in the dome over the telephone connection to
Tom and hated myself for picking Monroe to do the job. But I'd have
hated myself just as much for picking Tom. And if anything happened and
I had to tell Tom to blast off, I'd probably be sitting here in the dome
all by myself after that, waiting....

"_Broz neggle!_" came over the radio in Monroe's resonant voice. He had
landed the single-seater.

I didn't dare use the telephone to chat with Tom in the ship, for fear I
might miss an important word or phrase from our scout. So I sat and sat
and strained my ears. After a while, I heard "_Mishgashu!_" which told
me that Monroe was in the neighborhood of the other dome and was
creeping toward it under cover of whatever boulders were around.

[Illustration]

And then, abruptly, I heard Monroe yell my name and there was a terrific
clattering in my headphones. Radio interference! He'd been caught, and
whoever had caught him had simultaneously jammed his suit transmitter
with a larger transmitter from the alien dome.

Then there was silence.

After a while, I told Tom what had happened. He just said, "Poor
Monroe." I had a good idea of what his expression was like.

"Look, Tom," I said, "if you take off now, you still won't have anything
important to tell. After capturing Monroe, whatever's in that other dome
will come looking for us, I think. I'll let them get close enough for us
to learn something of their appearance--at least if they're human or
non-human. Any bit of information about them is important. I'll shout it
up to you and you'll still be able to take off in plenty of time. All
right?"

"You're the boss, Colonel," he said in a mournful voice. "Lots of luck."

And then there was nothing to do but wait. There was no oxygen system in
the dome yet, so I had to squeeze up a sandwich from the food
compartment in my suit. I sat there, thinking about the expedition. Nine
years, and all that careful secrecy, all that expenditure of money and
mind-cracking research--and it had come to this. Waiting to be wiped
out, in a blast from some unimaginable weapon. I understood Monroe's
last request. We often felt we were so secret that our immediate
superiors didn't even want us to know what we we were working on.
Scientists are people--they wish for recognition, too. I was hoping the
whole expedition would be written up in the history books, but it looked
unpromising.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours later, the scout ship landed near the dome. The lock opened
and, from where I stood in the open door of our dome, I saw Monroe come
out and walk toward me.

I alerted Tom and told him to listen carefully. "It may be a trick--he
might be drugged...."

He didn't act drugged, though--not exactly. He pushed his way past me
and sat down on a box to one side of the dome. He put his booted feet up
on another, smaller box.

"How are you, Ben?" he asked. "How's every little thing?"

I grunted. "_Well?_" I know my voice skittered a bit.

He pretended puzzlement. "Well _what_? Oh, I see what you mean. The
other dome--you want to know who's in it. You have a right to be
curious, Ben. Certainly. The leader of a top-secret expedition like
this--Project Hush they call us, huh, Ben--finds another dome on the
Moon. He thinks he's been the first to land on it, so naturally he wants
to--"

"Major Monroe Gridley!" I rapped out. "You will come to attention and
deliver your report. Now!" Honestly, I felt my neck swelling up inside
my helmet.

Monroe just leaned back against the side of the dome. "That's the _Army_
way of doing things," he commented admiringly. "Like the recruits say,
there's a right way, a wrong way and an Army way. Only there are other
ways, too." He chuckled. "Lots of other ways."

"He's off," I heard Tom whisper over the telephone. "Ben, Monroe has
gone and blown his stack."

"They aren't extraterrestrials in the other dome, Ben," Monroe
volunteered in a sudden burst of sanity. "No, they're human, all right,
and from Earth. Guess _where_."

"I'll kill you," I warned him. "I swear I'll kill you, Monroe. Where are
they from--Russia, China, Argentina?"

He grimaced. "What's so secret about those places? Go on!--guess again."

I stared at him long and hard. "The only place else--"

"Sure," he said. "You got it, Colonel. The other dome is owned and
operated by the Navy. The goddam United States Navy!"





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